Some ND farmers want trade embargo on Cuba lifted

Published: Jul. 19, 2021 at 6:10 PM CDT
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CENTER, N.D. – As protests continue across Cuba, farmers here in the Midwest are pushing to open trade to the country to help.

Growing a commodity crop like pinto beans has been a part of Justin Retterath’s family for decades, and talk of exporting things like beans, corn and grain with Cuba has always been around.

“It would be a huge opportunity for especially the dry bean growers in North Dakota, Minnesota, basically the whole United States as a whole. Cubans already have an appetite for beans, so it would be a huge opportunity to get into that market,” said Justin Retterath, a pinto bean producer in North Dakota.

Currently, the U.S. accounts for less than 10% of trade to the country.

“Agriculture production across the board within Cuba has been in decline since at least 2016. They are obviously importing a lot of their food needs, between 60% and 70% of what Cuba consumes is imported,” said Paul Johnson with the United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba.

The embargo against Cuba was put in place in the 1960′s during JFK’s presidency.

Retterath said its time has come.

“It’s about time we get the ag commissioners, and I think it’s about time we get something done here and get the trade opened up to Cuba,” said Retterath.

Ending the embargo currently in place against the nation would put North Dakota producers at a major advantage.

“Those are markets that we could possess and we could supply because, for example, we are the largest dry bean producer in the United States,” said Doug Goehring, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner.

Those in favor of lifting the embargo said it would not only benefit the state economically, but it would also support those struggling in the Caribbean nation.

“We can relieve the stress and pressure that is happening in Cuba and anything we do food-related, directly impacts the Cuban households, the families in Cuba,” said Johnson.

Many hope that one day, North Dakota crops will be able to make it to Cuba.

Legislation like the Agriculture Export Expansion Act, which was introduced to U.S. Senate in 2019, would help introduce financing for trade rather than just cash only.

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